Stay in touch or be left out because Ohio State recruiting is a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week obsession. What’s the latest news as the Buckeyes build for the future? Get that and more Sunday through Thursday on Lettermen Row. Today’s discussion focuses on the uneasisness around Doug Nester’s recruitment and more from Jakob James on his commitment.
Jakob James, his Ohio State commitment and why now
In case you missed it on Monday night, the Buckeyes added their seventh commitment to the Class of 2020 when Cincinnati Elder 3-star offensive lineman Jakob James announced his decision on Twitter.
A 6-foot-4, 270-pound lineman at one of Ohio’s best football programs, James held 20 scholarship offers prior to Ohio State extending him one on Monday afternoon as he and his family wrapped up a Martin Luther King Day visit to Columbus.
The Buckeyes have three offensive linemen now committed in 2020, and there is a lot to like about James. But in a class that many expect to be the defining one of Ryan Day’s early tenure as coach, there is naturally going to be skepticism about accepting a commitment from what is perceived to be a lower-ranked player so early in the process when prospects like 5-star guard Justin Rogers and highly-ranked 4-star guard Geirean Hatchett are still out there being recruited.
As Urban Meyer before him, I will say this as plainly as possible: Ohio State doesn’t — and won’t — offer a scholarship to any kid in Ohio if it is not convinced that player is capable of contributing to the program. There are no pity offers from the Buckeyes, and there are no goodwill measures being taken for prospects that aren’t able to help Ohio State win, even at Ohio’s best prep programs. James was offered because after months of evaluation, Ohio State saw what it wanted to see from him during his most recent visit.
But the fact that he’s from Ohio helped get this offer now, as opposed to waiting another couple of months for no reason at all. That unnecessary wait while there’d be no improvement, no evaluations, etc., hurt the Buckeyes as they tried to flip players like Michigan State commitments Nick Samac and J.D. Duplain in the 2019 cycle. Not going all in on an Ohio kid they liked a lot when they could’ve had him early is what cost them Zeke Correll, who signed with Notre Dame.
Day isn’t going to let that happen this cycle, especially with Ohio State’s glaring need for offensive line help.
“He visited [Monday]. He was put on the scale and he’s gone up,” one source clued into the Ohio State recruiting efforts said, harkening back to the summer when James was told he needed to get bigger. “Nothing is going to change in the next two months. He’s a tough, Ohio coach’s kid from a great program and we need offensive linemen.”
Sometimes you can outthink yourself on the recruiting trail. And in this case, the timing was right for the Buckeyes, because when there is a player of this potential, already offered by Michigan, Penn State and others, you don’t risk letting them get away.
Vibe about Doug Nester heading into Penn State visit
One good way to let a player get away in recruiting is just to give them reason to doubt anything about the program. Doug Nester had doubts that popped up when Urban Meyer came under fire in August and again when he retired in December.
Those concerns were the impetus for his decision to hold off on signing with the Buckeyes in December and take his recruitment through the second signing period. After taking two official visits to Ohio State in the last month, it appears that those concerns haven’t fully been squashed. There is a whole lot of uncertainty for the Buckeyes right now as Nester seems set to take an official visit to Penn State this weekend.
Ohio State would’ve liked nothing more than for him to shut down his recruitment after last weekend’s visit, but it doesn’t appear to be the case. Even people close to Nester aren’t entirely sure what he’s thinking.
“I’m curious about the situation like everybody else,” Tim George, Nester’s offensive line coach at Spring Valley High School in Huntington (W.V.) told Lettermen Row. “I know there’s a lot of coaches that come to our basketball games and I talk to Doug a lot, but we rarely talk about recruiting.
“It seems like everyone is getting more aggressive now that we’re getting closer to signing day.”
Everyone is Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia Tech at this point, three programs desperate for offensive lineman in two-plus week stretch until signing day that doesn’t allow many new names or players to get evaluated. Nester visited both the Hokies and the Nittany Lions in the regular season and took a trip to Penn State in December as well. So it’s clear why Penn State feels a sense of veiled optimism as he readies for a final visit to the school.
As for the Buckeyes? It’s going to be standard operating procedure. Ohio State will continue to highlight for Nester that he chose the school for a reason some 18 months ago and that his best relationships are in Columbus. The Buckeyes will underscore his opportunity to play early in Columbus, that no school is as close to home as the Buckeyes are and that there’s no better chance to win Big Ten and national titles than with the Buckeyes.
Then it’s just holding on tight until signing day for Ohio State.